LOS ANGELES, CA – A recent survey found that 90% of healthcare workers in the UCLA Health system were unaware that their N95 masks had partially if not completely eroded into their skulls.
“It is both surprising and not surprising,” explained UCLA neurosurgeon Dr. Sean Feuerstein, who says that is rather commonplace to be consulted for a N95 extraction. “It is not surprising because we’re wearing masks just about every minute of every day at work since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. What is surprising is how health care workers have become so used to them they are unaware of the trauma it’s causing. In fact, we only realize it when a colleague points out that our face is falling off or a piece of our skull is showing.”
More often than not, Feuerstein says, it is a mild case where either an otolaryngologist or an oral-maxillofacial surgeon can perform a bedside maskectomy. But in severe cases where the mask has been worn for an entire day and the straps have pulled the mask into the eye sockets and cranium, it can be a 12-hour operation involving neurosurgery, plastics, ENT, and maxillofacial surgery for not only mask extraction but total head & neck reconstruction.
“The most interesting case was an N95 eroded so deep into the head it sat atop the occipital lobe like a yarmulke,” Feuerstein told Gomerblog.